Dental Emergencies

Learn to recognize and respond to your children’s dental emergencies

Dental injuries and emergencies can be frightening and painful for the children who suffer them and the parents who have to deal with them. However, these events are also very common, and the Doctor is an expert in treating unexpected dental trauma in Sea Girt, NJ patients.

Did you know that about a third of all children experience some type of dental injury, and even more have been through an emergency dental situation? The majority of these cases come during the environmental exploration period of toddlerhood, and during preadolescence and adolescence, when sports injuries are most common.

The best way to prepare for potential dental emergencies is by familiarizing yourself with them. Keep reading to learn how to recognize dental trauma and be prepared to handle it.

You can often soothe toothaches with warm water, floss or ice

Toothaches are common at all ages, and they can almost always be traced back to a root cause. For example, food stuck between the teeth can be uncomfortable for young children. Other causes include tooth fractures, tooth decay, tooth trauma and the emergence of wisdom teeth in adolescence.

You can help by:

  1. Checking for impacted food; remove it with your finger, a toothbrush or floss.
  2. Rinsing the painful area with warm water.
  3. Applying a cold compress to the affected area to reduce swelling.
  4. Contacting the Doctor’s office for advice.


Lip, tongue and cheek injuries can often be alleviated with gauze, ice and pressure

Accidental cuts and bites can cause painful and bloody injuries to the cheeks, tongue and lips.

You can help by:

  1. Putting a clean cloth or gauze against the injury and applying pressure to stop the bleeding.
  2. Counteracting swelling with ice.
  3. Take your child to an emergency room if you are unable to stop the bleeding. Uncontrollable bleeding should be addressed immediately by a medical professional.


Seek emergency medical treatment if you suspect a broken jaw

If your child finds it extremely painful to move his or her jaw, or cannot move it at all, he or she may have suffered a broken or fractured jaw.

You can help by:

  1. Encouraging your child not to move his or her jaw
  2. Immobilize the jaw if necessary by gently wrapping a scarf around the head to prevent movement
  3. Take your child to the nearest emergency room


Dental concussion can permanently discolor a tooth without treatment

When you think about dental injuries, you might first think of cracked, broken or missing teeth. However, sometimes a dental concussion can cause serious damage to a tooth without fracturing it or dislodging it from its socket.

This typically occurs in toddlers who have not yet mastered the ability to walk, and happens when a tooth suffers a hard bang or knock. Dental concussion can result in temporary or permanent tooth discoloration. If the tooth turns black or a dark color, this could be a sign that the tooth is dying.


You can help by:

  1. Taking your child to the Doctor for an evaluation of the damage.
  2. Electing root canal therapy to treat the interior of the tooth before permanent discoloration sets in.


Crown fractures almost always require dental treatment

The crown is the exterior surface of the tooth that is visible above the gums. Its visibility and exposure make it the part of the tooth most susceptible to trauma. Crown fractures can range from minor cracks in the enamel surface, which are not an emergency, to clean breaks that expose the interior pulp, which require immediate treatment.

It’s likely that the first thing your child will experience in the event of a crown fracture is intense pain. However, there are other warning signs that you’ll need to look out for, including change in tooth color (yellow and pink hues).

Even in cases of superficial enamel cracks, Dthe Doctor should be notified. Dental X-rays are the most effective way to assess the severity of a crown fracture, and even minor cases of jagged enamel can result in inflamed, irritated and infected gum tissue.

You can help by:

  1. Rinsing the child’s mouth with warm water.
  2. Placing ice or a cold compress on the affected area to reduce swelling.
  3. Offering pain relief like Children’s Tylenol.
  4. Calling the Doctor’s office to determine whether a visit to the emergency room or to our office is more appropriate based on the symptoms.


Keep knocked-out teeth hydrated and seek medical attention immediately

When a tooth has been knocked all the way out of your child’s mouth, dental treatment is required immediately. Re-implantation of permanent teeth is always more successful if it is performed within an hour of avulsion, or when the tooth is knocked out.

In the case of baby teeth, re-implantation is not typically attempted, to avoid damaging the tooth bud, which can in turn damage the future permanent tooth. However, immediate dental care is still necessary when a baby tooth is avulsed in order to clean and maintain the gum tissue after the unexpected tooth loss.

You can help by:

  1. Recovering the tooth. Handle the crown, or the portion of the surface that is above the gumline, only. Do not touch the root.
  2. Rinsing off dirt and debris without scrubbing or scraping.
  3. Inserting the tooth into its original socket using gentle pressure, or encouraging the child to hold the tooth between their cheek and gums if they are old enough to leave the tooth in their possession. For younger children, drop the tooth in a glass of milk or saliva to avoid the risk of the tooth being swallowed.
  4. Keeping the tooth hydrated during transportation. Maintaining moisture is vital to successful re-implantation.
  5. Visiting the Doctor immediately if possible, or the emergency room if not.


Tooth displacement is easy to recognize and requires dental treatment Sometimes a tooth may be hit hard enough to move it from its position in its socket without actually knocking it all the way out. This is called tooth displacement, and it is easily noticeable because the affected tooth protrudes at an unnatural angle.

Often in cases of tooth displacement, the jawbone below is fractured, and in about 50 percent of cases, the interior pulp of the tooth remains intact. There are three types of tooth displacement: luxation, extrusion and lateral displacement. These terms refer to the orientation of the tooth following trauma.

In some cases, displaced baby teeth can heal on their own, but in most pediatric and all adult cases, immediate dental treatment is necessary to save the tooth and prevent infection.

You can help by:

  1. Pressing a cold, moist compress against the affected area.
  2. Offer pain relief like Children’s Tylenol.
  3. Contact the Doctor


Dental intrusion can require dental work, including root canal therapy

Dental trauma sometimes forces a tooth or multiple teeth upward and embed them into the jawbone. Often, this can both injure the tooth’s ligament, which keeps it in place, and fracture the socket.

Dental treatment is necessary as soon as possible to restore the affected teeth and re-affix them into place. Depending on the specifics of the intrusion, the affected teeth may descend naturally, or they may need root canal therapy to preserve the structure of the teeth.

You can help by:

  1. Rinsing the child’s mouth with cold water.
  2. Using ice packs to relieve swelling.
  3. Administering Children’s Tylenol for pain relief.
  4. Contacting the Doctor if possible, or visiting the emergency room if not.


Root fractures can’t be seen with the naked eye but can cause serious pain

If your child experiences a direct, traumatic oral injury that causes intense and lasting pain, but no damage is visibly noticeable, he or she may have suffered a root fracture. That is, a fracture to the part of the tooth that lies below the gumline.

Root fractures sometimes heal on their own, but sometimes they may require dental treatment, or tooth extraction in extreme cases.


You can help by:

  1. Placing a cold, moist compress on the affected area to reduce swelling.
  2. Administering pain relief, like Children’s Tylenol.
  3. Contacting the Doctor, who may use dental X-rays to determine if a root fracture has been suffered.


Seek medical attention for head injuries right away

Children who sustain a hard blow to the head should be taken immediately to the emergency room. Even if they remain conscious, it is important for a pediatrician or emergency medical specialist to make a concussion diagnosis and assess the possibility of internal bleeding.

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